Environmental Sciences – Studying Nature Through Observation

Environmental science is a multi-discipline subject covering aspects of physics, chemistry, biology, soil science, geology, geography, ecology and more. Environmental science can be summarised as the study of our natural environment and its interactions, including the impact of humans on that environment. So, how do you study nature? There are so many topics and subtopics to consider that everyone can usually identify some aspect of environmental science that is of interest to them.

Let us begin with children – they have a natural curiosity which should be encouraged along with respect for their environment and living creatures. There can be a steep learning curve e.g. you pull a cat’s tail often enough and it will scratch you, likewise stick your hand in a beehive or ants nest and you’ll likely be stung or bitten! Also, children can be cruel by accident – they will gently pick up a butterfly or ladybird to show you and unfortunately damage its wings so it then can’t fly. So, perhaps teaching children how to study nature through observation is the way forward. You can learn a lot about nature by sitting and watching, especially in a garden, park, by a river or down at the coast. So arm yourself and your kids with a container and a magnifying lens and off you go on nature walks. Handy items to take with you are a notepad and pen for making sketches, writing notes etc of the animals or plants that you see. A nature study book is useful too, in order to teach children how to use keys to identify different species.

What other equipment may be useful to help your child discover science and nature? Binoculars are really useful for identifying birds, spotting nests in trees and looking out to sea. You can get mini binoculars just perfect for little hands – they even make them in bright colours, of durable materials and with lanyards to minimise damage when dropped! Magnifiers are available in all sorts of shapes and sizes too, from simple handheld magnifying lenses to containers with magnifying lids and even on to microscopes for really tiny creatures or looking at plant details. I have even seen a magnifying lens with a built in audio bug ID – how cool is that?

Observation is great for the initial stages of learning but eventually children and adults alike will want to carry out some experiments. Now is when you can teach the importance of caring for the environment we study – you don’t have to kill hundreds of insects to do identification and you don’t have to pull all the flowers off Grandad’s prize roses in order to determine it is a rosebush!

There is an enormous variety of educational kits you can get for children to discover science suitable for different ages from as young as 4 years old and covering many aspects of environmental science such as alternative energy, crystal growing, the physics of flight, atmospheric studies and volcanoes etc…..have fun learning with your children and discovery science toys. You never stop learning even as adults there is always something new to discover about the world we live in and often children will see things from a different perspective and make you thing about the environment differently. They will also challenge you with questions like: Why is the sky blue? What makes a rainbow? So arm yourself with a good environmental science book, revisit your school years and have some quality fun time with your kids.

Natasha M. McKnight

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